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Your company name is more than a label to make sure that mail gets delivered to your door. It tells the world who you are. It is the single most powerful selling tool you have. It should ideally be your domain name and your US trademark. If your company name is not earning its keep, perhaps it's time to consider a change. You will win much more than the cost and effort involved in the change.

How can you get a better company name? Unfortunately every one believes that they are good at selecting names so they all want to be involved. The response to a company name is always personal. What works for one person may irritate another person. So discussions can be heated. Sometimes the final choice is the name that offends the least number of people. However there are key factors to consider, which will make your company name considerably more effective.

Two of the biggest global consulting firms - Anderson Consulting and PwC Consulting - have changed their names within the last two years. Perhaps we can learn something about these key factors by seeing what the "experts" did.

EXAMPLE A - Accenture

Many people were impressed by a series of expensive ads, aired during the Super Bowl Game on Television in January 2001. These promoted a new company name for a worldwide group of obviously very bright people. This launched as a new separate company, what had previously been Anderson Consulting. The process was designed to create a new brand and image in the marketplace.

Some months of careful preparation had led to this, as may be seen from the priority dates for the company's trademarks. "Accenture" itself had a trademark priority date of October 6 2000. Further work led to the above logo with the accent, which has a trademark priority date of November 24 2000.


You possibly missed the following news release:

NEW YORK, 9 JUN 2002 - PwC ConsultingTM, a business of PricewaterhouseCoopers, today announced that upon completion of its separation from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Monday will be its new name. PwC Consulting had announced in March that it would change its name and brand identity to mark its separation from PricewaterhouseCoopers, and to distinguish its management consulting and technology services from those of its competitors. Greg Brenneman, president and chief executive officer of PwC Consulting, said: "The PricewaterhouseCoopers brand has given us a great heritage. Our new name - Monday - is exactly what we want it to be as we create our new business: a real word, concise, recognizable, global, and the right fit for a company that works hard to deliver results. Monday is a new identity on which to build our company's future, and it will have meaning and stand for something: real people, real experience, real business .. and that means real results."

Even more interesting was another headline last week:

Big Blue agrees to pay roughly $3.5B for accounting firm's consulting arm. July 31, 2002: 8:06 AM EDT NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Scrapping its previous plan to rename the unit and spin it off, PricewaterhouseCoopers has agreed to sell its consulting arm to IBM for roughly $3.5 billion in cash and stock.

So if PwC Consulting is abandoning the name "Monday", perhaps it could be the name for your company. However be aware that the domain name,, now redirects to IBM so there is some competition for this particular name.

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If your company name isn't the strong selling tool it should be, then you should change it as quickly as possible.

Even though you may have had the company name for 100 years, this is no reason to hang on to it. Just look at the major banks in Canada. All of them are steeped in history. Yet it seems they are continually tweaking their names to better define their business. And that's the secret. The most difficult selling task is to persuade people who don't currently buy from you that they should explore what you have to offer. Your present customers will easily accept a company name change, if it has any merit at all.


Four key factors determine whether your Company Name is a good sales tool:

  1. Existing customers like the name.
  2. The name is easy to use.
  3. A stranger will easily recognize what the company does.
  4. The name is easily found on the Internet.


This is the no-brainer in the list. If existing customers don't even like the name, then this may limit their future purchases from the company. The name may conjure up the wrong image for the company. Or perhaps in another language, it may have a pejorative meaning. We have all heard the classic mistakes. There is nothing very new here.


This factor has a little more bite to it. Yet how often have you seen a company name and were not sure how to pronounce it. Some companies have even had ad campaigns where they try to educate you in how to say their name. Of course if the company sells highly sought-after products, then a slightly unpronounceable name may be all part of the glamour or de luxe package. The customer must be willing to do some work to be able to buy the product. The company is relying on a product-centric approach rather than a customer-centric approach. (See our Publication "Winning Marketing Plans are Client-centric" for some of the reasons why this may be hazardous.)

The problems multiply where two or more languages may be commonly used. In Canada and more particularly in Quebec, you must assume that some of your potential clients may speak English and some may speak French. Ideally the company name should be equally accepted by both groups. This implies a bilingual company name. A real effort should be put into finding such a name. If not, the effectiveness of the company name as a selling tool will be much less than 50% of the selling effectiveness of a bilingual name. In addition, increased costs are incurred in promoting both company names.

If despite this, separate French and English company names are decided on, then another raft of problems are added if the French company name has accents. Some customers may not know whether they need to put the accents in to be correct. (How do I get a �, a �, or a � on my keyboard?) If they try, this may be an extra irritation for them. This is all without considering the extra problems accents bring when it comes to the Internet. This is discussed as part of a more general problem under Factor 4.

Finally, you have the delightful quirkiness of our friends at Accenture. They have included an accent in their logo, which is impossible to reproduce on any normal keyboard. Perhaps it's to get your attention, but is this the correct spelling and if so, what I am supposed to do about it? Thankfully, in most of their current literature, they most often use "accenture" without an accent. Does the accent work for you? I believe this is a needless complication and possible source of confusion.

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This is the toughest factor of all. Particularly if your company provides highly technical products or services, it is almost impossible to think of a short word or word couple that will instantly communicate precisely what your company does. So, many companies create a new word for their name. They choose one, with some attractive features, and then they promote this name hard. Think Xerox, which was developed exactly in this way. Now Accenture is following this path. However you must spend a great deal of money if the name is to become a household word. For small and mid-sized companies, it is better to spend more time thinking of a name, which will inform the stranger of what the company does.

If you do have money to invest in promoting a company name, then you should make sure it will really make you stand out from the crowd. PwC Consulting in choosing Monday seems to have forgotten this. To avoid confusion where large sums of money are being invested, you often register the company name and also register the name as a Trademark. Usually a trademark is not granted if the word is already widely used. In order to be allowed to register the trademark, PwC Consulting had to register it 6 times for very precisely defined products and services. These trademarks were all granted a trademark priority date of May 16, 2002, just 3 weeks prior to the launch of the new name. To the outsider, this all suggests that the name would prove to be less than effective.

Another illustration of the name confusion problem is the recent attempt by Molson to take over the domain name. Molson already has the word "Canadian" as a trademark. As Michael Geist said in the Globe and Mail on July 25, 2002, "trademarks are important rights that enable holders to establish brand awareness and loyalty while protecting consumers from marketplace confusion. What they typically do not do, however, is grant trademark holders a complete monopoly over the use of a word." So the University of Toronto graduate who registered the domain name has now had his rights confirmed by the Courts.

For those of us with limited budgets, it is far better to avoid these possibilities of confusion. Choose a name to make you stand out from the crowd and which tells the stranger what you do.


This is probably the most important factor, given the increasing dominance of the Internet as the main method of communicating and getting information.

Many people try to find a company by using a search engine, such as Google. Prior to the IBM announcement of its acquisition of PwC Consulting, a Google search for "Monday" done on July 25 did not find the PwC Consulting web address among the first 100 entries. Even in a search for "Monday" and "consultants", the PwC Consulting address was not found in the first 100 entries. The word "Monday" is just used so widely that it is very difficult for anyone to be sure to stand out from the crowd.

Of course it may be said that people would guess that was likely to be the website for PwC Consulting: and so it was. (Since the IBM announcement on July 30, the Monday name has been buried. The domain name gives an automatic redirect to the IBM website.) However, it is usually hazardous to guess like this. Sometimes the company may have had a problem because the domain name was already taken. So it might have settled for or A customer does not want to have to guess. Google is usually a much surer way of finding the right domain name.

The other aspect, which affects both search engines and domain names, is the inclusion of even quite standard symbols in a company name. When a company name was seen only on company literature, then the inclusion of accents, hyphens, ampersands (&) or + signs did not cause any problems. Now accents may not be recognized or may be neglected by search engines. If a potential website visitor types out the domain name without using exactly the right spelling, then the web page will not be found.

Even worse, some of the special characters, such as &, + or -, have special meanings to search engines or browsers, and a search for the domain name will not give at all what was hoped for.

As usual, the KISS principle is best. Keep your company name so simple, that everyone gets it right without prompting and can easily guess the domain name. This then works for both people and it works for search engines and Internet browsers.

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If you would like to rate your company name against these two company names chosen by the "experts", you may find the following Company Name Rater amusing. You can download the associated Excel spreadsheet here. This will help you calculate your entries in the table you see below.

You should rate each factor on a scale from 0 to 5: 5 is as good as you can get. The score for each factor is then multiplied by the Measure of Importance shown in the same row. The sum of these 4 factor products then gives you the overall rating for the company name. The four Measures of Importance sum to 20. So the total sum of the products can go from 0 to 100%. If you feel that different measures of importance are better then you can change them, but they must always sum to 20. The evaluations below are subjective but are believed to be reasonable values.

Factor Measure of Importance Accenture Monday Your Company Name
1 Existing customers like the name. 3 3 2  
2 The name is easy to use. 5 3 3  
3 A stranger will easily recognize what the company does. 5 0 0  
4 The name is easily found on the Internet. 7 5 1  
Total Score converted to a % 100% = ideal 59% 28%  


Freelance writing

I hope you enjoyed this article, which is seen by many appreciative visitors. Part of that comes from its visibility in Google keyword searches.

If you would like to have quality articles like this on your website, then my services as a freelance writer are available to you. Click here for more details.

Barry Welford

Does your company name perform better than those developed by the "experts"? Have you tied down the corresponding domain name. If not you have two choices. You can spend as much money as they would to attempt to build your brand and build awareness of that brand. Or you can go the better way. Change your company name so that it begins to earn its keep as your prime selling tool. Make sure that you "own" it on the Internet by having an appropriate domain name.

If this topic is of interest to you, you may find a more recent blog post, Company Name Analysis using SWOT, has some additional information you may find intriguing.

Remember your company name is the single most important element in determining your company growth and success. If you wish to get a better company name or domain name, SMM will be happy to work with you. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.

Barry Welford

What Do You Call An 800 Lb. Gorilla? for answers?

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